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Preston Lovinggood - Sun Songs Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9
Musicianship 9
Lyrics 9
Production 9
Creativity 9
Lasting Value 9
Reviewer Tilt 9
Final Verdict: 90%
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Preston Lovinggood - Sun Songs

Reviewed by: Gregory Robson (06/28/13)
Preston Lovinggood - Sun Songs
Record Label: Communicating Vessels
Release Date: July 16, 2013 (vinyl); Feb. 19, 2013 (digitally)

Four years after the demise of his critically successful band Wild Sweet Orange (WSO), Alabama singer-songwriter Preston Lovinggood has returned with a 12-song debut effort Sun Songs. Though it is not nearly as engaging as WSO's masterwork We Have Cause To Be Uneasy, there is certainly plenty to like.

For starters, Sun Songs is daring and unconventional with a definitive lo-fi bent. Vacillating between intimate lo-fi indie folk and quirky roots pop, there's an authority and conviction at work on all of the songs that is far too hard to imitate. Much of the album is understated and nowhere is that more evident that on the subtle guitar arpeggio that opens the co-title track/album opener. Featuring distant vocals and a warm, vernal sentiment, the entire 90 seconds are nothing if not immediate, effective and solacing. Ostensibly a prologue, "Sun Song" has a homespun and wholesome quality that makes it almost impossible to dislike. The coziness of "Sun Song" is disbanded almost immediately however on the jittery and fractious "Natural," a slightly nocturnal slice of roots-punk that is Lovinggood at his most vulnerable. Effectively a candid admission of his yearning childhood, "Natural" is big-hearted and brilliant in every sense of the word.

Lovinggood has never shied away from the histrionic and nowhere is that more apparent than on the attitude-driven "Papa's in the Movies." Decidedly Southern, urgent and rustic, the song chugs along in a pace that is both steady and rhythmic. Sonically it extends where "Natural" left off but does so in a manner that is both immediate and also candid. While going so far as to call him a thespian is probably hyperbole, Lovinggood does have a sense of urgency in his delivery that commands your attention. To put it bluntly, he has a presence, a swagger if you will, that many of his contemporaries are sorely lacking.

Never one to shy away from taking chances, he dabbles in new wave on the synth-driven "Somewhere Along The Way," a buzzy and gritty slice of accessible college rock that is absolutely tremendous. And then, rather unexpectedly, the song stops at the 1:50 mark and turns into a hazy and haunting acoustic effort that is fingerpicked, fragile and freakishly fantastic. But, Sun Songs is still not even halfway done. That ends shortly though, as the disc's first side concludes with the rustling "Little Gods," and the irresistible "Further."

The former is the first song on the disc that sounds analogous to WSO. Anchored by a buoyant banjo and a swampy guitar solo, "Little Gods" is meandering but far from aimless. On the contrary, the direct "Further" is an understated love song that allows his vocals to be the central, and practically the only, instrument . Rising over the light prattle of drums, it is a homespun tonic to a defeated world.. With female vocals cooing on the chorus, it is nothing short of awesome. The LP's intermission is the 40 second instrumental "Enter Mental, which for all intents and purposes is a chance to rest and nothing more. A collapsible sigh, a collective rest, a chance to inhale and decompress. And then, the proverbial cannonballs really begin to hurl.

The back half of Sun Songs opens with "Give It Your Name," which confusingly opens homespun and acoustic and is anchored by distant vocals. Rather quickly the song segues into a crackling and howling slice of angst-fueled Southern garage blues. While the end result is slightly head-scratching, the originality and the audacity of Lovinggood to veer left and shake things up is exactly why he remains such a worthy name to keep on the obligatory music radar. One of Sun Songs most accessible efforts is the sonically languorous "Terminator," a fitting song for July summer barbecues. Well, that is if your crowd enjoys brutal honesty introspection.

The album's closing triumvirate is arguably the album's best back-to-back pairing. The first of the three is "Helicopter" a near-perfect ode to paranoia, nervosa and uncertainty. When Lovinggood sings, "There's a helicopter in my brain," you almost want to reach out and him a drink. And after the crestfallen and heartbreak-riddled "Shipwrecked," you want to hand him a handle of vodka and offer him a bro-hug. In all seriousness, "Shipwrecked" is arguably one of the most effective and honest songs about heartache released this year.

Sun Songs closes on the co-title track, a sturdy acoustic effort that is nearly identical to the album opener. With a small lyric change, the song rises above, a hopeful conclusion to an album jam packed with an array of conflicting emotions. In just 12 brief songs, we've been witness to Lovinggood the hopeless romantic, the wide-eyed dreamer, and the emotionally bruised child.

Regardless of the subject matter, however, Lovinggood is all heart, all the time. That one quality though is something so rare to find. And it is that one quality that continues to keep him set apart on a mantle high above his contemporaries. Even when he's not soaring to the incomparable heights of We Have Cause To Be Uneasy, he still manages to say something deeply important. And for that reason alone, Sun Songs is more than worth the time and money.

Recommended If You Like Villagers, Owen, Wild Sweet Orange (kinda), oh hell I don't know


Tracklisting 1. Sun Song
2. Natural
3. Papa's in the Movies
4. Somewhere Along The Way
5. Little Gods
6. Further
7. Enter Mental
8. Give it Your Name
9. Terminator
10. Helicopter
11. Shipwrecked
12. Sun Songs

Produced by Taylor Hollingsworth (Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band, Dead Fingers)
 
Displaying posts 1 - 5 of 5.
01:01 PM on 06/29/13
#2
jdr277
I got a lion in my pocket I'm lying
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Great review! So glad that someone here recognizes this guy, and also glad Preston is making music again, it's been a while however The Great Book Of John has done a great job filling the void until this came out.
08:58 AM on 06/30/13
#3
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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Great review! So glad that someone here recognizes this guy, and also glad Preston is making music again, it's been a while however The Great Book Of John has done a great job filling the void until this came out.
The Great Book of John is basically everybody from WSO except Preston. Right? And Bekah Fox, but she is all over WSO's albums. haha.
05:43 AM on 07/01/13
#4
jdr277
I got a lion in my pocket I'm lying
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The Great Book of John is basically everybody from WSO except Preston. Right? And Bekah Fox, but she is all over WSO's albums. haha.
Yea. They are awesome! Kinda have an old school Radiohead feel
06:20 AM on 07/01/13
#5
Gregory Robson
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Yea. They are awesome! Kinda have an old school Radiohead feel
Oh very cool. I mean I knew it was very different from WSO, but I have also heard good things. I will give it a listen. Thanks!
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